Jefferson Davis remembered as a ‘good guy’

Alvin Benn/Special to the Advertiser
Montgomery Advertiser 4 June 2015

jd-birthday-may2015Jefferson Davis has gotten a “bad rap” in the 150 years since the doomed Confederacy’s only president led his separatist country, a retired Montgomery lawyer and history buff said Wednesday.

Richard Garrett said Davis was criticized by those who felt he didn’t lead aggressively enough during the Civil War and seemed to focus on defensive rather than offensive military tactics.

“It wasn’t as though they just threw a civilian in and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Garrett said at Davis’ 207th birthday celebration. “He was leading a country with limited resources.”

Unlike previous speakers, Garrett avoided chronological details, preferring instead to mention background information that had the audience at the First White House of the Confederacy event hanging on every word.

He described Davis as a “kind, competent and gentle man who served his state and both countries with character and distinction that is so different than the caricature made of him by the northern press and citizens,” said Garrett.

Positive character traits helped elevate Davis to the Confederacy’s most important position after serving in the U.S. Senate from Mississippi and he worked hard to keep the country together “until it became obvious that that goal could not be accomplished,” Garrett added.

He said he spent several hours rereading books and periodicals on Davis as well as the breakaway country he led until 1865 when the Confederacy collapsed under the weight of overwhelming Yankee might.

Garrett said Davis was a strong patriot and “lover of country” that included two of them until secession split the Union apart.

“Only when compromise became impossible and Mississippi voted to secede did Davis turn to become a staunch supporter of the Confederacy,” said Garrett, adding: “Contrary to Yankee criticism he and other southern leaders did not engage for many years in a conspiracy to break up the union.”

Standing halfway up the steps leading to the second floor of historic building, Garrett outlined the track record of Davis’ patriotic family. His said his father and an uncle both served during the Revolutionary War as soldiers.

“His father served with the Georgia cavalry and as an infantry officer in the siege of Savannah while three older brothers fought in the War of 1812,” said Garrett, who said two of Davis’ brothers fought under Andrew Jackson who praised them during the Battle of New Orleans.

During the Blackhawk War of 1831, Garrett said Chief Blackhawk was captured and placed under Lt. Davis’ care, prompting the Indian leader to thank him for “the kind treatment he received from the young officer.”

Davis became a colonel during the Mexican War and, when the last American charge began he was severely wounded on the field “until the victory was won,” said Garrett.

After the program ended, a birthday cake similar to one made for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee earlier this year was cut and pieces were distributed to the large crowd that had gathered to honor Davis.